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Holiness – our sanctification is the will of God

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

In our series on holiness it is important to define the key doctrine of sanctification and to understand exactly what this term means and how it relates to our pursuit of holiness. Sanctification is another area the Bible speaks substantially about (over 1000 times in various forms) yet there seems to be limited attention paid to it in our churches. Sanctification’s importance can be seen when comparing it to regeneration; where regeneration for the Christian is birth; sanctification is all about spiritual growth. I will not effort to exhaust this study, but to provide an overview to help us understand the importance and nature of growing in holiness – our sanctification.

1 Thessalonians 4:3
3For this is the will of God, your sanctification:

In the ordinary acceptance of these words, they simply mean that among many other things that God has willed, sanctification is one; it is something in accordance with His will. This thought contains teaching of great value. God very distinctly and definitely has willed your sanctification: your sanctification has its source and certainty in its being God’s will. We are ‘elect in sanctification of the Spirit,’ ‘chosen to be holy;’ the purpose of Gods will from eternity, and His will now, is our sanctification.

Ephesians 1:4
4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

“To be one with God’s will is to be holy. Everything in a life of holiness depends upon our being in the right relationship to the will of God.” (A. Murray)

The design of the Gospel is to teach men not only what they should believe, but also how they should live. It is God’s will that all His should be holy. The Lord calls none into his family to live unholy lives, but that they may be taught and enabled to walk before him in holiness. Some make light of the precepts of holiness, because they hear them from men; but they are God’s commands, and to break them is to despise God.

Let us look at some basic dictionary definitions for context.

“SANCTIFICATION: The act of making holy; the state of being sanctified or made holy. Theologically—The act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love of God.” Webster’s Dictionary

SANCTIFY: To make holy or sacred; to consecrate or set apart; … to purify from sin,… SANCTIFICATION: Technically, an operation of the Spirit of God (Rom. 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2) on those who are already in Jesus, i.e., are united to Him by faith (1 Cor. 1:2), by which they are rendered increasingly holy, dying to sin and living to God, to righteousness, and to holiness (Rom. 6:6, 11, 13, 19; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:24). American Dictionary

HOLINESS: “1. Perfect moral integrity or purity; freedom from sin; sanctity, innocence. 2. State of being hallowed or consecrated to God, or His worship. Webster’s Dictionary

The Bible has much to say about this key doctrine. Sanctification occurs in various forms some 300 times in the New Testament and 760 times in the Old Testament for a total of 1060 in the Bible. The basic meaning in all these instances is “to set apart.” It is a lifelong process of growing in grace and spiritual maturity.

If regeneration has to do with our nature, justification with our standing, and adoption with our position, then sanctification has to do with our character and conduct. In justification we are declared righteous in order that, in sanctification, we may become righteous. Justification is what God does for us, while sanctification is what God does in us. Justification puts us into a right relationship with God, while sanctification exhibits the fruit of that relationship—a life separated from a sinful world and dedicated unto God.

The characteristic life pursuit in which the Christian is to live is that of sanctification, separated unto holiness. We cannot forget that the new man has a renewed will. This new will delights in the will of God because it is born of it.

There are three key aspects of sanctification taught in the Bible. The following is a brief review.

1. Instantaneous Sanctification

1 Corinthians 6:11
11And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Hebrews 10:10
10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14
14For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

By the death of Jesus Christ the sanctification of the believer takes place at once. The very moment a man believes in Christ he is sanctified, that is, in this first sense: he is separated from sin and separated unto God. For this reason all through the New Testament believers are called saints (1 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 1:7). If a man is not a saint he is not a Christian; if he is a Christian he is a saint. We can see that in 1 Cor. 6:11 “sanctified” is put before “justified.” The believer grows in sanctification rather than into sanctification out of something else. By a simple act of faith in Christ the believer is at once put into a state of sanctification. Every Christian is a sanctified man. The same act that ushers him into the state of justification admits him at once into the state of sanctification, in which he is to grow until he reaches the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.

2. Progressive Sanctification

Justification differs from sanctification: the former is an instantaneous act with no progression; while the latter is a crisis with a view to a process—an act, which is instantaneous and which at the same time carries with it the idea of growth unto completion.

2 Peter 3:18
18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

2 Corinthians 3:18
18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The tense is interesting here: We are being transformed from one degree of character, or glory, to another. It is because sanctification is progressive, a growth, that we are exhorted to “increase and abound” (1 Thess. 3:12), and to “abound more and more” (4:1, 10) in the graces of the Christian life. The fact that there is always danger of being defiled by contact with a sinful world, and that there is, in the life of the true Christian, an ever increasing sense of duty and an ever-deepening consciousness of sin, necessitates a continual growth and development in the graces and virtues of the believer’s life. There is such a thing as “perfecting holiness” (2 Cor. 7:1). God’s gift to the church of pastors and teachers is for the purpose of the perfecting of the saints in the likeness of Christ until, at last, they attain unto the fulness of the divine standard, even Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:11-15). Holiness is not an overnight growth; it is not the thing of an hour here and there; it grows as the coral reef grows: little by little, degree by degree. See also Phil. 3:10-15.

3. Complete and Final Sanctification

1 Thessalonians 5:23
23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Completely” means, perfect in every respect, whether it refers to the Church as a whole, or to the individual believer. Some day the believer is to be complete in all departments of Christian character—no Christian grace will be missing. Complete in the “spirit” which links him with heaven; in the “body” which links him with earth; in the “soul” as being that on which heaven and earth intersect. Maturity in each separate element of Christian character: body, soul, and spirit. This blessing of entire and complete sanctification is to take place when Christ comes:

1 Thessalonians 3:13
13so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
1 John 3:2
2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Philippians 3:12-14
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

From the Divine Side: It Is the Work of the Triune God.
a) God the Father

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

God’s work is here contrasted with human efforts to achieve the preceding injunctions. Just as in Hebrews 12:2, and Philippians 1:6, the Beginner of faith is also the Finisher; so is it here; consequently the end and aim of every exhortation is but to strengthen faith in God who is able to accomplish these things for us. Of course there is a sense in which the believer is responsible for his progress in the Christian life (Phil. 3:12, 13), yet it is nevertheless true that, after all, it is the divine grace which works all in him (Phil. 2:12, 13). We cannot purify ourselves, but we can yield to God and then the purity will come. The “God of peace,” He who reconciles us—is the One who sanctifies us. It is as if the apostle said: “God, by His mighty power will do for you what I, by my admonitions, and you by your own efforts, cannot do.” See also John 17:17—“Sanctify them through thy truth.” Christ addresses God as the One who is to sanctify the disciples.

b) Jesus Christ the Son

Hebrews 10:10
10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The death of Jesus Christ separates the believer from sin and the world, and sets him apart as redeemed and dedicated to the service of God. This same truth, namely, the sanctification of the Church as based on the sacrificial death of Christ, is set forth in Eph. 5:25, 27—“Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it.” Christ is “made unto us… sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30). See also Heb. 13:12

c) The Holy Spirit Sanctifies

1 Peter 1:2
2elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

The Holy Spirit seals, attests, and confirms the work of grace in the soul by producing the fruits of righteousness. It is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who gives us freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). He is called the Holy Spirit, not only because He is absolutely holy Himself, but also because He produces that quality of character in the believer. The Spirit is the executive of the Godhead for this very purpose. It is the Spirit’s work to war against the lusts of the flesh and enable us to bring forth fruit unto holiness (Gal. 5:17-22). How wonderfully this truth is set forth in the contrast between the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. Note the unsuccessful struggle of the former, and the victory of the latter. Interestingly there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the seventh chapter of Romans, while He is mentioned about sixteen times in the eighth chapter. Herein lies the secret of failure and victory, sin and holiness.

From the Human Side

a) Faith in the Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:30
30But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

Christ is indeed all these things to us, but, in reality, He becomes such only as we appropriate Him for ourselves. Only as the believer, daily, even moment by moment, takes by faith the holiness of Jesus, His faith, His patience, His love, His grace, to be his own for the need of that very moment, can Christ, who by His death was made unto him sanctification in the instantaneous sense, become unto him sanctification in the progressive sense—producing in the believer His own life moment by moment. Herein lies the secret of a holy life—the momentary appropriation of Jesus Christ in all the riches of His grace for every need as it arises. The degree of our sanctification is the proportion of our appropriation of Christ. See also Acts 26:18.

b) The Study of the Scriptures and Obedience

John 17:17
17Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Ephesians 5:26
26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,

John 15:3
3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Our sanctification is limited by our limitation in the knowledge of and our lack of obedience to the Word of God. How does the Word of God sanctify? By revealing sin; by awakening conscience; by revealing the character of Christ; by showing the example of Christ; by offering the influences and powers of the Holy Spirit, and by setting forth spiritual motives and ideals. There is no power like that of the Word of God for detaching a man from the world, the flesh and the devil.

c) The Pursuit of Holiness

Hebrews 12:14
14Pursue … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

To pursue means to seek out, as Saul of Tarsus pursued and followed the early Christians. One cannot become a saint in his sleep. Holiness must be the object of his pursuit. The lazy man will not be the holy man. Heb. 12:10, 11: God chastens us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Chastisement often is intended to “produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Rom. 6:19-22; 2 Cor. 6:17; 7:1. Sanctification is brought about in the life of the believer by his separating himself deliberately from all that is unclean and unholy, and by presenting, continually and constantly, the members of his body as holy instruments unto God for the accomplishment of His holy purposes. Thus by these single acts of surrender unto holiness, sanctification soon becomes the habit of the life.

Summary

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated or merely counteracted, but of a Holy Spirit orchestrated character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike behavior, attitudes, and virtues.

As stated in the introduction regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before:

  • desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world;
  • desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God;
  • desire to show love and bring benefit to others.

In sanctification, the Holy Spirit “works in you to will and to act” according to God’s purpose; what he does is prompt you to “work out your salvation” (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Phil. 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the “fruit of the Spirit”) is progressively formed in them (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; 5:22-25). As we progress in Christlikeness we are growing in holiness, for He is holy.

A.W. Pink wrote these words as a warning to Christians regarding personal holiness in the early 1900’s which still applies to our current day.

“How many there are today who suppose that if they have trusted in Christ, all is sure to be well with them at the last even though they are not personally holy. Under the pretense of honoring faith, Satan as an angel of light, has deceived and is now deceiving multitudes of souls. When their “faith” is examined and tested, what is it worth? Nothing at all so far as insuring an entrance into heaven is concerned: it is a powerless, lifeless, fruitless thing. The faith of God’s elect is unto “the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1). It is a faith which purifieth the heart (Acts 15:9), and it grieves over all impurity. It is a faith which produces an unquestioning obedience (Heb. 11:8). They therefore do but delude themselves who suppose they are daily drawing nearer to heaven while they are following those courses which lead only to hell. He who thinks to come to the enjoyment of God without being personally holy, makes Him out to be an unholy God, and puts the highest indignity upon Him. The genuineness of saving faith is only proved as it bears the blossoms of experimental godliness and the fruits of true piety”

Scripture is clear we are to Pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” Heb 12:14 and the decision to purse holiness is our choice for we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” Phil 2:12, and gratefully with thanksgiving we are empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit Phil 2:13 in this pursuit. The doctrine of sanctification  has serious and eternal implications for the believer. Given the price Christ paid for our salvation and having separated us out to holiness to become conformed to His image, should not our reasonable pursuit be a life of obedience toward sanctification for it is the “will of God” 1 Thess 4:3?

Romans 8:29
29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

May the Spirit of God draw us humbly toward holiness, moment by moment, breath by breath, that Christ might be fully expressed in and through us for the glory of the Father. Amen.

 

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You are Now Leaving the Comfort Zone: Top 25 Words Not Preached Much Anymore

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

It is time to leave the comfort zone of partial preaching of the Word of God.  The Bible is clear that we are to teach and preach the whole Word of God which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Preachers and teachers are commanded to “preach the Word” (ALL Scripture) not just to scratch the itching ears of those who just want to hear what they want to hear.  Unfortunately we find this is what is happening more often than we care to acknowledge in our churches.

2 Timothy 3:15-17
15and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 
17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 2 Timothy 4:2-3
2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 

It is not too difficult to see the dilemma resulting from preaching the whole Word of God as the writer of Hebrews helps us understand since it is piercing to our souls and spirit and a discerner of our true hearts.  Something by nature we look to avoid.

Hebrews 4:12-13
12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 
13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

The result is that many pulpits today seem to be largely void of a number of key teachings and doctrines which are crucial to fully accomplishing the purposes of Scripture.   This may be the result of not wanting to step on toes, keep from controversy, or just wanting to be liked.  Whatever the reasons, failure to preach the whole Word of God is having a devastating impact on God’s people and His Church leaving them ill-equipped to fully accomplish God’s purposes and live obedient lives pleasing to Him.

The following is my quick top 25 list of areas (not in any order) which seem to get limited or no attention today.

  1. God’s sovereignty
  2. God’s goodness and severity
  3. Pursuit of Holiness
  4. The Fear of God
  5. Sin
  6. Satan
  7. The Reality of Hell
  8. Judgment
  9. Prayer and How to Pray
  10. Revival
  11. Basic Doctrines of the Bible
  12. Biblical authority
  13. Biblical Interpretation
  14. Election
  15. Predestination
  16. Christian Disciplines
  17. Sanctification
  18. Assurance
  19. Eternal security
  20. Reverence for God
  21. Obedience
  22. Attributes of God
  23. Surrender
  24. Discipleship
  25. Worship

I am sure that many will have their own list, but the important thing to recognize is that we are creating a Christian culture where many core biblical doctrines are not being taught leaving Christians with only a partial knowledge of God’s Word, His ways and purposes.   We are operating without the full appreciation for the distance between a holy God and sinful man, and a lack of fear, reverence, and appropriate motivations for our spiritual walk.

The consequences are far reaching.  Christians are not fully equipped for their spiritual journey to grow in holiness, obedience, being prepared to defend the faith, share the gospel, and live a life knowledgeable of the ways of God giving them confidence, assurance and hope.   

Romans 15:4
4For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

God give us courage to preach and teach All the Scriptures.

Prayer:  Father will you convict our hearts (preachers, teachers, the body of Christ) to fully embrace and teach/learn all your Word so that we may know you, your ways, and purposes; become more conformed to your son, and more usable for your kingdom.  May we have courage to teach all of Your Word in order to fully inform, convict, correct, and exhort to holiness as we live in obedience to your commands for the purpose of glorifying and pleasing you.  May all who hear your Word apply what they hear to their lives; some to salvation and others to holiness!

Revival – are we willing to pay the price?

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) says 14if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Few in the church today would argue that we are in desperate need of revival.  But are we willing to pay the price?  We talk about this constantly, but  how do we achieve this?  According to 2 Chronicles 7:14our only responsibility is the IF part, humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face, and turning from sin, and the THEN part is all His – hearing, forgiving, cleansing, and healing.

Words of Explanation – Revival is defined in Revelation 2:4-5 and says:

Revelation 2:4 – 5 (NKJV) 4Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent. 

Jesus tells us we need to return to our first love which we have left!

Revival ….

  • Is God getting me where I need to be so He can do what He wants to do
  • Is God’s people getting right with him
  • Is when God moves in power in His people, to bring them back to life from hard hearts, indifference, backsliding, and spiritual harlotry, to renew their first marriage vows to Jesus only
  • Is a name we invented to explain what ought to be the normal Christian life
  • Is God’s answer to His people’s desperate plea that we are powerless to revive ourselves or others
  • Praying involves brokenness and humility, and the confession of my personal sins and the sins of the church and the country that have separated us from God
  • Is Biblical
  • Is birthed in prayer and holiness, and it will continue until the prayer and holiness which birthed it is neglected in favor of the arm of flesh of man

 Spiritual Awakening

  • When God so works in His people that we get contagious and the world notices the Reviving One in action in love and power in our lives, so that they want to rub lives with us to catch what we have
  • When God’s humbled, purified, Spirit-empowered church so lives the presence and priorities of God that the world takes notice
  • When God’s people get on fire, that unbelieving family and the world of lost people around us want to come see where the fire is
  • When revived believers repent of their sins in the holy presence of God, make right what is wrong in the power of God, give priority to the purposes of God in prayer, testify of a passion for God by their revived lives living out the reviving Life.

What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the overflow, the results, when the revived church goes into the world by the Spirit of power, who opens blind eyes so that those in darkness come to the light of Jesus Christ, when He is lifted up.  Revival results in evangelism.  Unchurched people get saved in a mighty movement of God.  In the atmosphere of prayer, purification, and praise, God moves to redeem the lost world so that entire geographic areas are swept into the kingdom.  If the harvest is His, then pray to the Lord of the Harvest as the Greatest Commission of all.

Revival is not

  • Goose bumps – not how high we jump, but how straight and honest we talk
  • Not calling down fire on those who don’t hear – Jesus rebuked that (Luke 9:55)
  • Not just asking but hearing from God.  You are only as revived as you are a good listener.
  • Not inexpensive; yes it is free, but it costs dearly – religion does not cost you anything, but revival costs you everything.  What have you got to lose?  Your sin, your pride, your reputation, your flesh, your powerlessness?

God wants to revive the church but He will do it one person at a time.  How does the fire of revival catch hold, you put a few hot coals together.  Jesus deals with us one person at a time.  We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.

  • Love of God
  • Hatred of sin
  • Your surrender to the Holy Spirit
  • Your desperation for the glory of God at all costs – God will not share His glory with those who come to use Him to make a religious reputation for themselves

Why we don’t have revival?    Ignorance

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) says  6    My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.     Because you have rejected knowledge,     I also will reject you from being priest for Me;     Because you have forgotten the law of your God,     I also will forget your children.

We are content to live without it – the church has no vision for revival – 

Proverbs 29:18 says:   Where there isno revelation, the people cast off restraint;     But happy is he who keeps the law.

The bottomline is we are unwilling to pay the price to meet the conditions – of humbling, praying, seeking God’s face, and turning from sin.

 Henry Blackaby provides some insightful perspective for us:

“Do we not realize that scripturally it is impossible to have a call for revival without a call for repentance? This has always been God’s requirement for His people. The passionate, unceasing corporate prayer that is always present in revival is desperately lacking as well. In short, I see little evidence of sincere brokenness among God’s people for our present condition or the condition of our nation.

We call for revival without actually crying with tears and brokenness for revival. The “call for revival” seems almost like a spiritual fad, with no true passion and sincerity of heart. Many will say “amen” when they hear mention of the need for revival. But the “call” is fleeting and soon passes away. And then we quickly move on to other activity and return to our business as usual with no follow-through by the leaders of God’s people.

We must understand that a true call for revival is first and foremost a recognition that we’ve departed from God. It demands a radical response from God’s leaders and His people. Revival has always been, and remains to this day, God dealing with the sin of His own -– not the world.

Therefore, if we never recognize our need for repentance of sin, then our “call” for revival is in vain. Isaiah warned God’s people: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you; so that He will not hear”(Isaiah 59:1-2).”

Action steps:

May we seek God to grant us broken and contrite hearts, may our spiritual leaders “return to the Lord” and stay there;  may the people of God pray corporately with one heart and mind, and may God’s people be immediately obedient to all God reveals to them.  Amen and amen.

Supporting references:  Experiencing God and Fresh Encounter by Henry and Richard Blackaby

The Circular Driveway of the American Church – it’s not a good thing!

October 5, 2011 1 comment

The Circular Driveway of the American Church – It’s Not a Good Thing 

A call for Genuine Revival!

The comedian, Steven Wright, once told about a friend of his who put in a circular driveway…..he couldn’t get out!   The American church seems to be on this same circular driveway and it can’t get out.   This circular driveway is paved with Christians caught up in materialism, religion, confused worldviews, and rampant immorality.  Essentially the church more often than not looks like the world, behaves like the world, and desires to operate like the world (Barna Research provides current and historical surveys illustrating these points www.Barna.org) .  This may be a firm grasp of the obvious to many but as of this writing the situation continues to erode into deeper and deeper ruts in this seemingly endless circular driveway of sin and disobedience in American churches.  We can’t seem to get out!

A brief outline of a few scriptures would seem to help us see that it’s not about us, we are totally dependent on God, He is sovereign, and He has clearly given us our marching orders for not getting in a rut, the benefits of staying out and the consequences if we get in a rut, and how to get out if we do.   The apostle John makes it clear that we are not to love the world or the things of the world and that if we do the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15).  Paul clearly points out that man’s wisdom is inferior to God’s wisdom and only spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). Isaiah declares that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  The Word of God and the God of the Word is our source of success and blessing (Joshua 1:8; Deuteronomy 6:18, 9:18).   The bible clearly tells us that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).   Love and obedience is to be rewarded (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and disobedience is to be punished (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).   When we get in a rut He has given us a means to get out (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Christians and the church in large measure, similar to the children of Israel, have chosen to compromise and depart from God substituting worldliness for a fear of the Lord and living in disobedience to His Word.  We have become experts at substituting “stuff” for God, religious rituals for relationship, and natural for spiritual leadership.   Compounding this tragic condition, not surprisingly, our churches are wholly deficient in prayer, transformational bible study, personal discipleship, and true spiritual leadership.   It is no wonder that growth in a majority of American churches is flat or in decline and developing countries pray daily for the American Christian to be freed from this spiritual blindness and bondage.

An Outline of some thoughts to ponder:

The circular driveway of American Christianity today is riddled with many ruts in the road:

  • The circular driveway of materialism
    • Christians are obsessed with materialism.  It is the curse of the 21st century.   We have clearly substituted the pursuit of “stuff” and all its attendant negative implications for the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40)
    • Ruts in the Road:  Debt and the pursuit of power,  prestige, possessions, and position
  • The circular driveway of immorality
    • It is difficult to separate the nature and rates of immorality in the secular world versus the Christian world;  pornography, adultery, homosexuality, and fornication – the lines just blur
    • Ruts in the Road: Self-centeredness in an “it’s all about me” generation, severely compromised personal values,  and a ever increasing tolerance in what is acceptable public moral behavior and life styles
  • The circular driveway of religious ritual
    • We have become a program and activity driven church in America where Christians believe that checking the box in their church attendance and program participation equates to spirituality
    • We have in large measure taken on religious ritual as our cross to bear verses helping Christians develop a growing personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
    • Ruts in the Road: secular-humanism in the church, compromise in doctrine and flawed theology, programs and activities substituting for relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
  • The circular driveway of confused worldviews
    • Christians are confused and unable to defend the major American societal issues which are counter to solid biblical principles, e.g. abortion, same sex marriage, homosexuality
    • Ruts in the Road:  (www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=4114) liberalism as a religion;  media, education and politics overwhelming the Christian values message
  • The circular driveway of worldly leadership
    • Our churches are often intent on adopting secular and corporate management structures and approaches to leading their congregations in lieu of focusing on key biblical principles and purposes of spiritual leadership.  Ministry requires many fundamentally different approaches in leadership compared to main street management and leadership.  Notable differences begin with vision, mission and strategy development  in the church.
    • Ruts in the Road:  emphasis on man’s vision and wisdom verses God’s revelation of His will and purposes; operating from secular management principles which may be counter to biblical principles; lack of prayer as the foundation undergirding every element of ministry

How can we get out of this circular driveway and on to God’s highway to holiness (Isaiah 35:8)?

All the ruts in this ever eroding circular driveway lead us to a recurring theme in the bible – God’s people tend to depart from Him (Henry Blackaby, Fresh Encounter).   We have chosen death and evil for life and good; and have lost our first love (Deuteronomy 30:11-16, 17-20; Revelation 2:4-5).    God knew that His people would tend to depart from Him.  This departure of our heart from God is significant and far reaching.  The two signs of departure include lack of obedience and substitutes for God.    God’s people and the church today are continuing in a destructive race 100 miles per hour on this circular driveway as if it were God’s pattern and pleasing to Him.   

Stop!  We need to return to our first love.  The fundamental to getting out of the circular driveway rut is to return to the Lordship of Christ.   Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).   He didn’t say this just once but three times in Chapter 14 of the gospel of John.   Our starting point to obedience is out of our love for the Savior.

There is a deep and desperate need for God’s people to return to Him.  He desires us to be on His highway to holiness (Isaiah 35:8), growing more like Christ each day (2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:13) rather than the circular driveway of worldliness digging deeper in sin and disobedience. 

The answer then rests in repentance and genuine revival, individually and collectively as a church.    2 Chronicles 7:14 should be the rallying cry of every pastor and Christian in America.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ( NKJV ) 
if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Our love of Christ and His Lordship in our lives is the source of all true and lasting evangelism, missions, ministry and discipleship.   May we individually and as a church willingly humble ourselves, pray and seek the Lord in a way that He will rain revival down on His church and we respond in obedience to the call to join Him in His work to redeem a lost world. 

 Pray for Christ’s church to repent, humble itself, seek God and pray for spiritual awakening.  Lord may you start with me!

Welcome

Welcome to the new blog website of  Dr. David Tanner.  The purpose of this website is to promote biblical patterns for the Christian life encouraging personal revival, the pursuit of holiness, and an ever growing personal love relationship with God.  Category topics will include such areas as: 

  • Biblical Literacy
  • Discipleship
  • Holiness
  • Mentoring
  • Personal Revival
  • Prayer
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Spiritual Growth

Helpful links to additional resources will be updated regularly.   Please follow this site as well as the associated Twitter account.  Blessings in your daily walk with our Lord.